Muir Group Housing Association | Dynamic programme of works

Muir Group Housing Association | Dynamic programme of works

Carrying out a stock condition survey of your entire property portfolio is no small feat for any social housing provider, conducting one during a pandemic poses additional challenges. Muir Group Housing Association began surveying its stock in March 2020. Readers may remember we covered the project in our November/December 2020 issue. Here, LABM catches up with the team involved to find out how they got on.

“Achieving a stock condition survey of all Muir homes during a pandemic was a massive task, but we’ve come out the other side in great shape after designing a dynamic 10-year planned programme of works.

“It reflects our character and ambition at Muir; and our desire to upgrade residents’ homes as soon as possible,” says Nik Evans, Assistant Director of Property Services at Muir Group Housing Association.

Performing an all-encompassing stock condition survey of Muir Group Housing Association’s entire portfolio would have proved challenging at the best of times. Initially launching in March 2020, delays caused by Covid-19 barely hampered the survey, despite the Association being forced to down tools before remobilising when lockdown restrictions were loosened.

Nik Evans, Muir’s Assistant Director of Property Services

“It would have been easy to put this off until later, but we wanted to kick on and show residents how committed we are to ensuring they have properties to be proud of,” Nik continues. “With 5,500 homes we’re certainly not the biggest but covering everything you have in one stock condition survey is a huge undertaking at any level — particularly amid Covid-19.

“Working with specialist social housing consultancy, Michael Dyson Associates, saw us complete condition surveys of more than 90% of properties, which gave us incredible data with which to plan for the future.

“Geographically our stock is very widespread, so this partnership helped to deliver a very coordinated approach. We’ve mapped out the next 10 years of Muir’s property investment programme and we’re in the process of sharing it with residents and stakeholders.”

Planned maintenance
Redefining Muir’s planned maintenance strategies will enable the Association to continue meeting and emulating the Decent Homes Standard while also delivering on strategies in Muir’s Corporate Plan and preserving the general appearance of residents’ properties.

Installing new doors, windows, roofing, insulation and heating systems wherever necessary, will maximise efficiency — making sure residents always get the best value for money and homes they can be happy in, while doing whatever Muir can to reduce the Association’s carbon footprint.

Tony Jones, Muir’s Asset Services Manager

Tony Jones, Muir’s Asset Services Manager, says the decision to team up with domestic energy assessors, ‘The WarmFront Team’ has been key to helping the Association understand the efficiency of its homes — using thermal imaging technology as it bids to meet the UK Government’s net zero carbon goal and help resident combat rising energy prices.

“It’s given us a total bird’s eye view of everything we manage,” Tony says. “We have a great understanding of where and how to maximise the use of evolving technologies as we shape future strategies, so we continue to deliver improved, energy-efficient homes while meeting sector priorities and responding to changes in regulation.

“We can make more informed decisions regarding alternative and renewable energy systems including solar panels, heating sources and water storage options. In 2019 we moved our windows and doors workstreams in-house as a forerunner to some environmental benefits we’re considering; as well as maximising our budgets.”

Changing legislation
Another emphasis has been on continuing to ensure Muir meets changing legislation surrounding fire safety, and that processes remain versatile enough to respond efficiently to those changes as they arise and ensure resident safety. And having previously remodelled the department and worked with Muir’s Business Transformation and Technology team to reconfigure IT systems for greater, faster visibility of data with which to inform decisions, Nik adds: “With our revised Building New Homes strategy coming into effect, the stock condition survey and recent remodelling of the Property Services department means we’ll be in a strong position to embed Muir’s expanding portfolio into our repairs and maintenance
strategies. It means Property Services will have very solid foundations upon which to support Muir’s future — and, most importantly, those of our residents.”

Muir is committed to ensuring it meets evolving legislation requirements surrounding fire safety

Close collaboration
Having played an integral role in enabling Muir to undertake it’s all-encompassing stock condition survey amid the challenges of Covid-19, Andy Robinson, Director at Michael Dyson Associates, says: “When guidance on working safely in people’s homes during Covid-19 was released, Michael Dyson Associates quickly implemented compliant, comprehensive risk assessments and method statements to ensure surveys could be carried out safely and with the complete confidence of Muir residents.

“We worked with the Muir to ‘reboot’ the programme as lockdown restrictions changed, incorporating a completely refreshed set up and delivery programme.

“We completed the data submission and accompanying reporting despite the effects of a much more measured approach to the physical surveys, which resulted from enhanced health and safety management procedures.

“This close collaboration between Muir and Michael Dyson Associates enabled the survey to continue in the face of understandable concerns on the part of residents, being based on communication, assurance, good practice and efficiencies in resource deployment.”

Header image shows new homes at St Chad’s Fields completed in late 2021.

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